PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It took a Peoria County jury 2 1/2 hours on Tuesday before finding a Peoria County man guilty of killing another man and then hiding his body more than two years ago.
That means Allen K. Schimmelpfennig, 30, now faces at least 35 years and possibly up to 75 years in prison when sentenced on June 22 by Circuit Judge John Vespa. In addition to first-degree murder, the panel of 12 found Schimmelpfennig guilty of concealing a homicidal death.
The second charge carries a two-to-10-year prison term and would be served consecutive or after any sentence handed down on the murder charge.
The largely circumstantial case largely boiled down to what did jurors believe.
Did Schimmelpfennig kill Gabriel L. Cook on March 8, 2021, as prosecutors believe and then hide his body and set fire to a relative’s Jeep that he was using? Or was Cook killed by another person whom he was “beefing with” as Public Defender Kevin Lowe argued during his closing statements?
Prosecutors pointed to a large pool of blood found in Schimmelpfennig’s storage locker which was later found to be Cook’s. The blood loss, prosecutors Jason Ramos and David Gast argued, was too great to survive without medical attention. Cook, they said, wasn’t admitted to an area hospital that day.
No one has heard from Cook since, Ramos said, noting that his family and friends have not heard anything from Cook despite nearly constant contact before.
Cook’s family had reported him missing on March 8, 2021, and on that date, Peoria Police Detective Clintz Rezac walked jurors through cell phone records and a GPS monitoring bracelet, worn by Cook who was on probation in Tazewell County.
Using more than 30 slides, he showed during the trial that Schimmelpfennig and Cook were traveling together through much of the day until, at one point, they went to Schimmelpfennig’s storage locker. From that point, the bracelet was cut off, Cook’s phone doesn’t track with Schimmelpfennig as closely as it had. The GPS bracelet was found off Koerner Road in Northwest Peoria, according to testimony during the trial.
Additionally, the two were seen by a person at a Chillicothe apartment complex early on March 8, loading stolen items into the silver Jeep. When the storage was searched on March 25, officers found stolen items that matched to the earlier theft, according to trial testimony. Spent shell casings found in the storage locker matched up to a spent shell casing found at Schimmelpfennig’s apartment, the prosecutor said.
Furthermore, Ramos noted, Schimmelpfennig deleted several comments he had made to Cook in a Facebook chat that was occurring on March 8 and before.
But Schimmelpfennig’s attorney, Lowe, pushed back during his closing, saying Cook had other enemies and prosecutors had not proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. His client maintained his innocence. Schimmelpfennig also opted not to testify at his trial.
Lowe noted there were no fingerprints on the shell casings and nothing linking his client to Cook’s death other than being the same caliber.
But in his rebuttal, Gast blasted Lowe’s arguments. He noted the large amount of blood found on the storage locker’s blood and said that’s a clear sign that Cook needed medical attention or he would have died. And challenging Lowe’s contention that Cook was depressed and might have killed himself, Gast rhetorically asked, “who got rid of the body? His ghost?”